Seth and Rushdie fail to make the top six

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

THE SHORTLIST for the Booker prize, usually guaranteed to engender controversy and damage literary reputations, has been true to form with the latest list, announced yesterday.In a rout of established literary figures, the judges excluded works by Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Rose Tremain and Barry Unsworth.

THE SHORTLIST for the Booker prize, usually guaranteed to engender controversy and damage literary reputations, has been true to form with the latest list, announced yesterday.In a rout of established literary figures, the judges excluded works by Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Rose Tremain and Barry Unsworth.

The first-time novelist Andrew O'Hagan and the former winner J M Coetzee are among the six shortlisted authors for the prestigious £21,000 prize. They are joined by Michael Frayn, Anita Desai, Ahdaf Soueif and Colm Toibin.

It had been widely expected that this year's prize would, in sporting terms, feature a head-to-head battle between the heavyweight Indian-born writers Vikram Seth and Salman Rushdie, a past winner. Both are understood to have been near the shortlist, as was Barry Unsworth. But the judges chose a list that includes some writers with very little public profile.

Certainly Rushdie and Seth had admirers on the judging panel. The chairman, Gerald Kaufman MP, is on record as saying that Seth's previous novel, A Suitable Boy - the longest single-volume English-language novel - is his "book of the century".

And his fellow judge Professor John Sutherland, when submitting a newspaper review of Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet, sent an accompanying note saying: "Herewith the winner of the 1999 Booker Prize."

Mr Kaufman said yesterday: "While there were quite a number of novels of high quality, the judges found at least 10 to be of major stature. This made the final choice particularly difficult, and each of those 10 books was carefully and strongly discussed until the list had been refined down to six."He added: "The panel consists of Mr Kaufman; Natasha Walter, a columnist at The Independent and author; the novelist Shena Mackay; John Sutherland, professor of English at University College, London; and the literary editor of The Independent, Boyd Tonkin.

The eventual winner will be named at a dinner at London's Guildhall on Monday 25 October, with a live broadcast of the announcement on Channel 4.

Comments